Saturday, October 23, 2004

A Sense of Accomplishment

I found out long ago that "accomplishment" is what drives me. I've identified it as something I need. Even still, working from home and on a flexible schedule, I have those weeks (and sometimes months!) where it seems I am chasing my tail on a never-ending quest. This is typical for home office workers, and particularly so for online business owners.

Technology is always changing, there are always new products and new people on the scene. There is always something new to learn, something to change or something to test. And with 5 o'clock not signaling the end of a work day - or Friday the end of a work week - it's not always easy to identify your boundaries.

Procrastination is not really an issue -I would say: distraction. After all, most of us that choose this lifestyle are self-motivated and pride ourselves on being able to prioritize and organize (even if our work space doesn't show it!). We know what we need to do... and if we happen to forget, we have 3 task lists and 42 sticky notes to remind us :)

Do you ever get to the end of your day and ask yourself, "What did I do today?" - does it ever seem insane to you that you sat there for 11 hours straight and you cant pinpoint one single "accomplishment"?? Or worse yet - has anyone else ever asked you what got done after all those hours of peering into the computer screen... and stumped you? Or how about this one: You sat down with the intention of working through your task list... and ended up with 67 sticky notes instead of 42.

Me too. Frustrating, isnt it?

I dont like to let myself get too far gone before I take action on it - and turn things around. I know me. I know that I need to get things DONE in order to be able to focus. A sense of accomplishment is the difference between a confident, peaceful me -- and a frazzled unproductive me.

Even when I am upset about something not related to my work, I will quickly realize I am pacing the floor and will set out to rearrange the whole house or dig in and clean out the basement. And then I feel better. Better than better, really - it feels GOOD.

Time is a big issue - there's never enough of it to get everything done you want to do in a day. I got really frustrated over this awhile back... because there were things I wanted to do that I just couldnt seem to fit in. Weeks went by, then months... then more than a year. Now that's ridiculous, right? I thought so... so I decided to keep a 'time log' for a couple of weeks.

In this time log, I documented everything - every minute spent, and how. Yes, that in itself was time consuming... but very enlightening! I learned a lot about myself and my habits. And I made some necessary changes. The overall impact was dramatic, and my life and work took on a new direction from there. I was able to identify "time wasters" and also to see exactly what I accomplished each day - right there in black & white in front of me.

When you are documenting your time - on paper - a certain amount of accountability comes into play. You really dont want to see an entire log of wasted time at the end of the day. You deliberately work at completing things because you know they are going down on that paper. Even if it's you - and only you - seeing it... it matters.

Bigger than that, bigger than the daily to-do's, is the long-term goal that you have set out to achieve. Is everything that you do - every day, every week - pointing you in that direction? I find myself contemplating this quite often... qualifying tasks or projects as either being a part of that goal - or not.

This week was one of those weeks. By the end of the day on Friday, I was mentally exhausted and walked away from my work to take a break - shaking my head, and then taking a deep breath and deciding to just shake it off and start back fresh this morning.

I watched a couple of movies, had chinese take-out... and slept.

When I got to my desk this morning, half asleep and with my first cup of coffee in hand, I knew exactly what I needed to do the minute I powered my computer on. And while checking my email, I received Declan O'Reilly's newsletter - in which he talked about 'a sense of accomplishment'... which was a nice confirmation. And inspiration for this blog post, too ;)

So what's on for this Saturday? I have just over 8 hours to accomplish whatever I need to get done. First, I am going to strategically work through my "immediate gotta do" list - which shouldnt take more than a few hours. Then I am going to clear the rest of my afternoon for an intense Brain Dump. I'm sure you've heard this term by now - but in the case that you haven't, it's the process of taking everything on your mind... and putting it down on paper. Everything you want, everything you wish you had, everything you "need" to do, your business ideas, your personal goals - all of it. And then you simply work through it and create a plan of action.

I've been meaning to do this for months - but just havent cleared the time to make it happen. Typical... and the very reason it will be good for me.

Today will end with a very strong sense of accomplishment. I'm looking forward to that ;)